The Government have recent released the Report by Emeritus Professor Dr John Halsey [pictured above interviewing students in Rockhampton] into Regional, Rural and Remote Education [RRR].
With our significant representation of schools in the Northern Territory and Kimberley region of WA, CaSPA provided input into this Review Process.
Below are the Recommendations from this Report:
Eleven recommendations have been made with fifty-three actions to progress them.
Together the recommendations and actions encompass curriculum and assessment, principals and teachers, ensuring that students get the best start possible to their education, expanding VET and university opportunities and pathways, philanthropy and entrepreneurship, ICT, improving the support available to move away from home, and building a high level national focus on regional, rural and remote education and training.
The recommendations are:
Based on the recommendations and actions, four priorities have been identified to improve RRR education and opportunities.
The first priority is establishing a national focus for RRR education, training and research to enhance access, outcomes and opportunities. The critically important objective here is to create an entity that endures and provides a high and influential level of impact on the challenges and opportunities of RRR education. This could be achieved through the formation of a taskforce, the appointment of a Commissioner for RRR education along the lines of the recently appointed Commissioner for Rural Health or by using some other means.
The second priority is focussing on four critically important resources for successful learning and building young peoples' futures leadership, teaching, curriculum and assessment.
The essence of the recommendations and actions for leadership and teaching is that more has to be done to recognise the diversity of contexts, challenges and opportunities of leading and teaching in RRR schools and communities, particularly how people are prepared and supported for such appointments. Continuing to develop and refine ways and means of attracting and retaining experienced leaders and teachers to the most demanding schools and locations needs to be 'front and centre' of the planning and work to enhance RRR achievements and opportunities.
While there are strengths and benefits to having an Australian Curriculum and state/territory assessment processes, the issue of the relevance of these for RRR students and communities was raised during the Review. Increasing opportunities for students to learn about the historical, economic, social, political and environmental importance of rural, regional and remote contexts and communities in Australia is an important body of work to be undertaken.
Much has been researched and written about the fundamental requirements for a successful school; that is one which engages every student in rich and meaningful learning, values and respects them, and contributes to their community. Central to successful schooling are leaders, teachers and support staff who are dedicated to a place and its people, and who have the ingenuity and resources to take fundamentals for a quality education like curriculum and assessment and bring them to life in ways that are highly engaging. Doing this kind of work requires bespoke preparation, ongoing support and recognition that what is being done is valued locally and further afield.
The third priority is addressing the patchiness of ICT in RRR locations. The availability, accessibility and affordability of ICT for RRR schools, teachers, students, parents and communities have to be improved, and improved quickly. ICT is now and will only grow to become more so, integral to education and lifelong learning. To adapt a saying from the early days of telephones in the Outback, 'I'd like ICT, I'd like ICT that works, and I'd like ICT that works all the time'. An ICT taskforce dedicated to RRR education with the necessary expertise, authority and resourcing is recommended to substantially improve access to and use of ICT.
The fourth priority focuses directly on transitioning into and out of school. There is still work that needs to be done to ensure all young children start school healthy and well prepared. As well, work needs to be done to drastically shorten the time it takes to have a child with a potential learning difficulty properly assessed and a specific program designed for them.
RRR students at or near the stage of making the transition from school to employment, training, further study or combinations of them, are often confronted with issues and costs which their counterparts in urban areas do not have to worry about. Expanding the availability, affordability and accessibility of high quality work experience placements, VET, dual VET/university options and two-year associate degree programs for RRR students are all part of what needs to done. As well, allocating more support for RRR students to make successful transitions from school including for accommodation, travel and with day to day living expenses needs to be addressed.
The four priorities are not intended to suggest a lock step or fixed approach to progressing improvements in the achievements and opportunities of RRR students or that other issues are of lesser importance. It is very feasible to adopt a strategic selection or bundling of actions under several of the recommendations to get decisions made and work happening quickly on a range of fronts.
Further details about each of the recommendations and associated actions are set out in the report.
Brief descriptions of programs, initiatives and approaches which are making a real difference for young people and their futures, and point to what could and needs to be done to bring about overall improvements in RRR education have been included in the report.
The report also discusses the critical importance of RRR capacity building involving all levels of government and other agencies to expand opportunities for RRR young people and communities.
Making major changes in education in Australia has historically been slow and typically highly contested.
The Full Report can be Downloaded Here